When Gov. Jim Justice offered to dole out $100 savings bonds to those 35 and younger as incentive to take a COVID-19 vaccine, it came out of nowhere. No other governor had made such a promise. He said a bold, creative solution would be necessary for West Virginia to reclaim its former title as a leader in the nation’s vaccine rollout.
Dr. Kevin Volpp, the director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, said bonds aren’t a bad idea. He worries more that people won’t have their bond in hand soon enough.
“If it’s the proverbial check is in the mail, that’s going to be much less effective than if people get the savings bond right when they get vaccinated,” Volpp said.
The state hasn’t said when these bonds will be made available. All that is known is that every young person who gets and has already gotten a shot will get their bond in the mail.
Volpp knows incentives work, but he says public officials should ask if there are other incentives besides cash. Vaccine passports might make more practical and economical sense.
“If a lot of things people wanted to do, whether they’re sporting events, concerts, going on a plane, if they all in essence said ‘if you want to participate in person, you need to get vaccinated,’ that would really incentivize people to get vaccinated in a more lasting way,” Volpp said.